The Pittsburgh Penguins are legitimate Stanley Cup contenders once again as they sit at the top of the Eastern Conference with their 8-3 record.
The major reason for the Penguins success has been the return to form of their two former MVP winning centers, Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin.
Crosby is on a six-game point streak as the center appears to be healthy for the first time in nearly two years. He’s tied for third in league scoring through 11 games with five goals and 12 assists for a total of 17 points.
Malkin isn’t too far behind his captain in the scoring department, delivering three goals and 12 assists for a total of 15 points through the first 11 games.
No team in the league has a better one-two punch than Crosby and Malkin when the two are healthy and playing in the same line-up. Several teams have quality tandems that can lead their clubs to success but nothing in the world of hockey will top Crosby and Malkin as long as they remain with the Penguins organization.
Although the duo can put up points with their creative playmaking or scoring ability, perhaps their greatest attribute is how they make those around them better.
Chris Kunitz was named one of the league’s top three stars this week, which is something that never would have happened if he weren’t playing with the two most talented centers in the game. Kunitz has recorded six goals and eight assists for 14 points along with a plus seven rating in the plus/minus category.
Meanwhile James Neal, who is a talented scorer, has his job made a lot easier when he’s set up by a Malkin pass or a Crosby feed. Neal currently leads the Penguins in goal scoring with seven goals to go along with two assists.
Kris Letang and Pascal Dupuis are also beneficiaries of having the two healthy centers around. Letang is tied for fifth in scoring for a defenseman with three goals and six assists for nine points in 10 games played. While Dupuis has recorded four goals and four assists along with a plus six in the plus/minus category.
With all the attention defenses have to give Crosby and Malkin, players around them are going to have their opportunities to put up points.
So far the Penguins have cashed in on those opportunities, which only spells trouble for the rest of the Eastern Conference.